These actors represent the greatest bumper crop of stars in Hollywood's history. Some had appeared in silent movies but few really received the push for stardom, with strong studio backing, until the sound era. And for each, the movies at the beginning of the sound era played a crucial role in developing their personas.
For some of the actors in this group, this period produced their greatest work—Marlene Dietrich in Morocco, the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup, Jean Harlow in Red Dust, Paul Muni in Scarface, for example. But for other stars, this period has not really received its due for the important role it played in establishing their personas and careers. How many people, for example, know James Cagney's Mayor of Hell or Joan Crawford's Possessed?
So in this edition of In Focus, we feature three actors whose early '30s movies deserve a little more recognition: James Cagney from Warner Brothers, Joan Crawford from MGM, and Barbara Stanwyck from Columbia (and Warner Brothers). For this group of actors, their early films, while not exactly obscure, have not attracted the same amount of attention as the roles from later in their careers, once their personas were already well developed. With only a few exceptions—Cagney in Public Enemy and Crawford in Grand Hotel, for example—the movies from the early thirties for these stars have not been widely recognized for the important roles they played in their careers.